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Coast Guard training flight disrupted by laser

A Coast Guard helicopter crew’s training mission Sept. 12 near Depoe Bay, Ore., was disrupted when a green laser lit up the cockpit.

Green and red lasers pose a significant hazard to flight crews and boat crews, especially when the helicopter crews are operating at low altitude at night or the boatcrews are battling treacherous conditions.

The Coast Guard’s MH-65D Dolphin Helicopter crew was conducting training near Depoe Bay with a Coast Guard small boat at around 8:30 p.m. when someone directed a green laser at the aircraft from shore.

“At 75 feet above water level a bright green light flashed through the cockpit three to four times,” said Lt. Tamara Whalen, the aircraft commander. “It definitely took a conscious effort not to look over towards it [to try to find the person].”

After being lased, the crew decided to return to the Coast Guard Air Facility in Newport, Ore.

The helicopter crew was not the only crew affected that night. After illuminating the helicopter the laser was directed toward the boat crew during their transit back to the station.

Pointing a laser at any aircraft is a federal offense. The Federal Aviation Administration reports that laser incidents involving aircraft increased by 902 percent from 2005 to 2011.

Coast Guard Capt. Mark Reynolds, commanding officer of Group/Air Station North Bend, Ore., says the Coast Guard is deeply concerned with the recent number of laser incidents and the deadly risks they pose not only locally, but across the nation.

“It is important to point out that the people committing these crimes are not only putting the lives of our helicopter and boat crews in jeopardy, but they are also endangering the lives of their fellow citizens,” Reynolds said. “We’re asking the public to help us put an end to this reckless behavior by reporting the illegal use of lasers if they witness it happening.”

The Coast Guard is urging anyone who sees someone point a laser at one of its air or boatcrews to call 911.

Anyone with information about the Sept. 12 incident in Depoe Bay is encouraged to call Group/Air Station North Bend Command Center at (541) 756-9210.